Tuesday, April 20, 2004

County, city to share center

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Hamilton County will join Cincinnati in building a regional hub of emergency operations, despite objections of the county's emergency management director.

Two of the three county commissioners said Monday that they will vote Wednesday to accept Cincinnati's invitation to share a 40,000-square-foot building on Radcliff Drive in Price Hill.

The building will be the area's first regional emergency operations center - a mission control for fire, police, Red Cross and other responders when disaster strikes.

"There comes a time when we have to make decisions," Commissioner Todd Portune said. "We can't afford to continue to debate these issues."

Portune and Commissioner Phil Heimlich said the partnership that Cincinnati proposed last fall made more sense than building a second regional emergency operations center, as county Emergency Management Agency Director Don Maccarone proposed two weeks later. Commissioner John Dowlin said Monday he wanted to get feedback from more communities before deciding.

The deal gives the county 6,000 square feet of office space and a 50 percent stake in the emergency center's "war room" for about $500,000.

Maccarone wants to build a second regional emergency center in Colerain Township for more than $3 million. It would be next to the 911 dispatch center and the road patrol unit of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department. The Emergency Management Agency has been operating in trailers at the site for 12 years.

The city and county operations centers could be backups for each other in case one is the target of an attack, according to Maccarone and some village and township officials. Some also have other concerns.

"It scares the hell out of me when Cincinnati City Council is in control and running things," said Fairfax Mayor Ted Shannon, a member of the county Emergency Management committee. "We have to make sure wherever it goes that Hamilton County controls it."

However, local fire and police chiefs support having one center in Price Hill.

"We've never had a regional emergency operations center and now they want two?" said Paul Wright, vice president of the Hamilton County Fire Chiefs Association. "Let's get one up and running first. Let's crawl before we run."


E-mail candrews@enquirer.com

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